AAPCC Report Finds Poison Centers Save More Than $1.8 Billion Every Year

New report quantifies the value of the American poison center system

By Malissa Carroll
October 16, 2012

The Maryland Poison Center, along with the other 56 poison centers in the United States, saves Americans more than $1.8 billion every year in medical costs and lost productivity, according to a report released Oct. 16 by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

Through partnerships with federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and private industry, the AAPCC supports the nation’s 57 poison centers – including the Maryland Poison Center, which is certified by the AAPCC as a regional poison center – in their efforts to treat and prevent drug, consumer product, animal, environmental and food poisoning.

The organization recently commissioned The Lewin Group to determine the value of the poison center system as a whole. The findings, which are detailed in the Final Report on the Value of the Poison Center System, confirm the overwhelming return on investment that the poison center system contributes to the nation.

“This report documents what we’ve known for years, which is that poison centers save lives as well as dollars,” says Bruce Anderson, PharmD, DABAT, director of operations for the Maryland Poison Center and an associate professor of pharmacy practice and science.

The Maryland Poison Center, located within the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, has provided poisoning triage, treatment, recommendations, education, and prevention services to Marylanders since 1972. In that time, the experts who staff the Center have helped more than two million Marylanders, handling more than 63,000 calls involving household cleaners, medicines, snake and spider bites, industrial accidents, and chemicals in 2011, alone.

In preparing its report for the AAPCC, The Lewin Group reviewed existing literature regarding the impact of poison centers on medical utilization and analyzed the value of the poison center network. Its analysis included the four most commonly referenced savings metrics: savings due to avoided medical utilization, reduced hospital length of stay, in-person outreach, and reduced work-loss days.

Results from this report indicate that every dollar invested in the poison center system saves $13.39 in medical costs and lost productivity, for a total savings of more than $1.8 billion every year. The report also determined that the cost to fund poison centers is 43 cents per U.S. resident per year. The savings are shared by federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector.

“Our system of 57 poison control centers is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health programs in the nation,” said Rick Dart, MD, PhD, past-president of the AAPCC. “Calls to poison centers keep the vast majority of callers out of the hospital and decrease the length of stays for patients who are admitted. Poison centers save lives, protect the public’s health, and save millions of taxpayer dollars. It’s vital that policymakers and the public understand the importance of funding this essential public health service.”

A call to the Maryland Poison Center is faster and less expensive than a visit to the emergency room, with more than 65 percent of all cases reported to the Center managed safely at home and saving valuable health care resources. In addition, the Center offers a wide range of services, including assessment of poisonings, overdoses, adverse drug reactions, drug interactions, and envenomations; range of toxicity (toxic dose information); overdose and poisoning signs and symptoms; toxidrome identification; decontamination recommendations; assistance locating antidotes and antivenom; identification of chemicals that may be hazardous to first responders and providers; and access to public health emergency information.

Despite these contributions, however, the influential role poison centers play in the US health system has largely gone unrecognized. Recently, poison centers have suffered severe reductions in federal, state, and other funding sources, and may soon experience additional budget cuts, which will make it difficult for these centers to continue providing life-saving services. Reductions in poison center services will likely also result in higher health care spending by federal and state governments, private insurers, and consumers.

The Final Report on the Value of the Poison Center System is available at www.aapcc.org.

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